Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Civic Center Friends Meets with Mayor's Chief of Staff

Mayor’s Office Meeting Report

Civic Center Friends (CCF) met with City staff Monday (11/27) at the Mayor's Office to discuss public perception concerning Libeskind's design proposals for Civic Center Park. The City was represented by Cole Finegan and Kelly Brough, the Mayor’s outgoing and incoming Chief’s of Staff, and Kim Bailey, Director, and Helen Kuykendall, Civic Center Project Manager, for Denver Parks and Recreation.

Civic Center Friends Presented
CCF presented a petition of concern about the design process for Civic Center Park, with over 250 signatures to date (http://www.PetitionOnline.com/ccfriend/petition.html). We explained that despite verbal statements by City staff denying intentions to pursue the Libeskind designs, the strong perception persisted that board members and funders of the Civic Center Conservancy (CCC) still supported the Libeskind designs, and the Mayor and City staff tacitly supported the Conservancy and its funders, making at least some pieces of Libeskind’s designs seem like a done deal.

We suggested that the perception may have begun when secrecy surrounded development of the Libeskind designs, funded by $75,000 from a supporter of the Denver Art Museum. And that the perception may have grown when the Mayor attended the grand unveiling of the Libeskind designs, which so closely echoed his ultra-contemporary style for the new museum. We also noted that holding meetings for input on such finished drawings from only one designer is not the customary or professional standard for signaling an open public process, particularly for Denver’s most significant and historic public space. Neither Parks’ public meeting format nor its survey forms made it clear that comment was being solicited only on the elements (i.e., a central gathering place, renovation of McNichols’ building, etc.) not on the Libeskind designs themselves. The radical nature of the designs for this traditional space—arrived at without public input—further distracted the public from the purpose of the meetings as stated by Parks and Civic Center Conservancy.

City Staff Responded
Cole Finegan, Chief of Staff, responded fully and openly, assuring us that they knew of no funding for the Libeskind designs but if it existed, the City would never allow anything to be designed without a full and open public process. And that no adjunct group, including the CCC, could go forward without the City’s approval. Staff reiterated statements made at public meetings that the Libeskind designs were merely ‘ideas’ for various elements from the 2005 Civic Center Master Plan and that the drawings were meant to stimulate discussion and public interest in implementing elements of the Master Plan rather than Libeskind’s designs themselves. They assured us that the City had heard the public saying that what was needed first was care for what we have in Civic Center, including restoration of historic structures. City staff and CCF concurred that restoration and new use for the McNichols (Carnegie Library) building was a primary goal.

Civic Center Friends Suggested
CCF agreed that the Libeskind designs had certainly stimulated public interest in Civic Center, and reiterated that having a conservancy for Civic Center was positive. We suggested that clearing up public perception about the City’s intent could best be accomplished by a statement from the Mayor that would receive press coverage, and another from the Dept. of Parks and Recreation that would be posted on the blog of Civic Center Friends.
http://civiccenterfriends.blogspot.com We mentioned that the same invitation had been extended to the Civic Center Conservancy at our meeting with representatives on 11/10.

Civic Center Friends greatly appreciates the time and careful attention given to our concerns by the City, and we look forward to an ongoing process that will generate a variety of ideas and solutions for Civic Center Park in keeping with the spirit and guidelines of the excellent 2005 Master Plan.

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